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If I Am Killed…A Letter from the Front Lines of the Civil War

In Issue:

Lt. Col. Stone, of the Fifth Connecticut, wrote the following letter to his wife and children. It was the eve of the impending battle at Slaughter Mountain, in which he was, indeed, one of the fallen.

Originally published September 13, 1862

My Dear Wife:

I expect that the time has nearly arrived when we shall have a bloody battle, as I understand tonight that the enemy are crossing the Rapidan River, with 25 or 30 thousand men, and advancing towards us. If so, probably before you receive this we shall have fought one of the severest battles of the war. I have sat down to write you what to do if I should be so unfortunate as to fall on the field of battle.

If I am killed, I wish to have Mr. William Montgomery to settle my affairs, pay all my debts, and with the remainder buy a small place for you and the children, where you could live comparatively comfortable with the pension you would receive from the government. The children are now old enough to assist you some about the house, and in a few years, if they live, they will be grown to manhood, when I trust they will not forget their mother. I have endeavored, so far, to rear them to usefulness, and I cannot but believe that they will be a comfort to you, and an honor to society, living in the fear of God; if they are guided by His holy law, they cannot go astray. If I should fall, my body would probably be sent home; I shall wish to be laid in the cemetery at Danbury, in a lot selected for my family.

Portrait of Union soldier H.B. Stone

(Courtesy Peter Pipke)

It has been my desire and intention to have Theodore educated as a soldier at West Point, if it were possible, and if practicable. I wish it to be so. He is, or will be, well calculated for a soldier, having the right temperament and constitution. Molly is active and will succeed anywhere if rightly directed and watched over. Seymour, the dear little fellow, I hope will outgrow his misfortune, and if possible should have a good education that will fit him for any kind of business. If I judge rightly, he will acquire knowledge faster than either of the others.

All of them are so constituted that they will be easier and better governed by kindness than by harsh treatment. Every care should be taken in rearing our little girl, as her future happiness depends more upon her disposition and amiableness of character than does that of men; women are more dependent than the other sex. You must think strange that I write you thus, for it is my duty to you all: and as it could not be done after I am killed, it is quite proper and but justice to you that I should do it now, while the opportunity offers. And now, my dear wife, be of good cheer. If it should please the Lord to take me from you, He has promised to be the widow’s God and Father to the fatherless. His promises are sure! And if we meet no more on earth, I hope to meet in heaven, where there shall be no more wars, or rumors of war, and the weary are at rest.

—With many kisses,

H.B. Stone

This article is featured in the July/August 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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